Old Selves – Learning to Love Family Members Who Have not Yet Changed

Lydia currently lives in West Lafayette, Indiana, where she and her husband, Nick, serve full-time with China Outreach Ministries, reaching Chinese international students at Purdue University. Lydia is a Wheatie for life (Wheaton College) and an enthusiast of Christian Classical education. In her spare time, Lydia enjoys being with kids (Nathaniel, Ethan, and Abigail in particular), doing calligraphy, teaching piano, running, and being active.

For more of this series check out: The Hostess with the Mostess – A Pre-Arrival ReflectionAdventure and Inconvenience – A Reflection One Week In, and Searching for Significance – A Reflection on Conversations with Ayi.

M and I have been friends for a little more than a year. I got to know her last year through weekly meetings to pray, study the Bible, and talk about life. I had thought my relationship with M grew deep and open as the year went by, but this summer I really got to know her in a deeper way – the roommate kind of way where you know a person’s “I’m tired” and “I’m feeling excited” faces.

Looking back over the summer, the amount of time I spent with M was much less than what I had expected when we started talking about her and her mother coming to live at my house. When we finalized M and Ayi coming to live with us at the end of last school year, I had this idea that each week there would be multiple nights of good conversation with M around the dinner table. I had no idea what it meant that M was signed up for two summer courses and a part-time job at a laboratory on campus. In reality these commitments meant that M was generally away from home 7am-7pm every day and would be studying until late at night almost every night. But despite her busy schedule, we did end up having a few noteworthy conversations during the course of the summer.

As you may recall from my previous posts, M’s paternal grandfather passed away one week after M and Ayi came to our house. I drove Ayi to the airport to catch her flight back to China and since I didn’t want to make the two-hour drive alone, I asked M to come. It turns out M is the perfect driving buddy to keep you from falling a sleep! She is an avid reader and pursuer of knowledge, and we seem to share the love language of quality time. We just enjoy being together and talking about the goings-on of life. Our drive home went by quickly as M reflected on the state of her family and shared stories from her childhood.

Talking to M, I realized that when your relationship with God begins an ocean away from your family, it can be difficult to realize that your family members have not changed and are still continuing on as they have for years. You have made a 180 degree turn and had a transformation in life-perspective and self-understanding, but they are their old selves while you are a new self. They do not know the new you, they don’t understand why you’ve forsaken their ways for God’s ways, and they expect you to still act like the old you. 

M’s love for her family became apparent as she shared about the brokenness of her various family members and their desperate need for freedom from the chaos sin brings to life. As she shared about her family, I saw her deep desire for them to know the Truth that would set them free. For M’s mom, coming to America where M’s life was transformed by Jesus has been a catalyst for deepening her curiosity about Christianity. 

M and her mom have a pretty close relationship, and I can tell that Ayi loves M very much. Ayi is very talkative and voluntarily shares life stories and lessons with M. They also butt heads sometimes with their differing views on life decisions and issues, and they experience all the other dynamics that exist in close relationships. M has had many opportunities to get to know her mom in new ways during her visit. For example, M shared that since their family had always had a housekeeper who cooked for them, M hadn’t realized her mom actually knew how to cook!

Up until this summer, M hasn’t had many chances to share her faith with her mom in person or hear her mom’s views on the origins and purpose of life. This summer, Ayi’s attendance at M’s weekly college Bible study and church service on Sunday has been an important for starting many spiritual conversations. During finals week of summer school, when M actually had some more time off because of finals scheduling, she and her mom went on long walks at night where they would talk about many everyday life topics that opened up conversation to spiritual sharing from M.  

One night M and Ayi came back from their evening stroll and M immediately came up the stairs to excitedly tell me, “I just had a really good conversation with my mom!” I felt privileged to share in M’s excitement about her mom’s change of heart toward God throughout the summer. M shared that her mom was starting to tell her own friends to go to church and that learning more about Jesus is important. This was a huge change from the beginning of the summer when Ayi said she would only start considering God and Jesus after she got a little older.

Ministering to Ayi together with M has been a very blessed experience. I often hear, “My mom and I talked about… on our walk. Maybe you can ask her more about it and share with her your experience when you interact with her this week.” To know a person and play a role in the deepening of their understanding of God is a unique experience. Engaging our fruitful conversations with Ayi reminds me that God’s design for a person coming to faith is one that includes many steps, parts, and people; I am not the only one responsible for changing a person’s view of God. I am just one piece of the puzzle and it is ultimately God who is in charge of a person’s changed heart. Praise him!


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I’m looking forward to sharing another year with M as this school year begins. M has mentioned the possibility of restarting a blog she began in middle school as a way of ministering and reaching out to her non-believing friends, so it will be fun to wait and see what God does with that desire. There are many skills that M is still learning as a young college student, many of which I myself am also still learning: discipline, time management and self-control, communication, and how to sense the Holy Spirit’s guidance. It will be an honor to witness first hand M’s growth in applying her abundant knowledge of God to her daily conversations, her friendships, and decision-making.

This is the prayer I have for M – pray with me!

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Peter 1:5-10

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Further Reading

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Nanjing: Love Under Pressure
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Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies
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Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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Stories from Shenyang

About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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Stories from Nanjing

About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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Stories from Changchun

About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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